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Truth

How the Many Sides to Every Story Shape Our Reality

By Hector MacDonald
15-minute read
Audio available
Truth: How the Many Sides to Every Story Shape Our Reality by Hector MacDonald

Truth (2018) shows us how we live in a world of competing truths, where politicians, activists, corporations and countries tell the stories they’d like us to hear. Identifying the different ways that truth can be used to mislead or inspire, Hector MacDonald draws from history and current affairs to demonstrate how we should wait to see the whole picture before deciding what is “true.”

  • Citizens wanting to navigate a world full of misinformation
  • Strategic communicators in business and politics
  • Journalists and bloggers looking to write the most truthful stories

Hector MacDonald is a strategic communications consultant who has advised some of the world’s top corporations in the areas of financial services, telecommunications, technology and healthcare. He has also written four novels, including the best-selling thriller The Mind Game.

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Truth

How the Many Sides to Every Story Shape Our Reality

By Hector MacDonald
  • Read in 15 minutes
  • Audio & text available
  • Contains 9 key ideas
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Truth: How the Many Sides to Every Story Shape Our Reality by Hector MacDonald
Synopsis

Truth (2018) shows us how we live in a world of competing truths, where politicians, activists, corporations and countries tell the stories they’d like us to hear. Identifying the different ways that truth can be used to mislead or inspire, Hector MacDonald draws from history and current affairs to demonstrate how we should wait to see the whole picture before deciding what is “true.”

Key idea 1 of 9

There are often competing truths about people, events or things, all of which can be true at once.

We’re often told that we should read a variety of sources to get the full picture. The Guardian claims this, the New York Times claims that, and El Pais claims something else. It’s often the case that all of them have something true to say. 

When we look closely, we often find that there are a variety of equally legitimate ways of describing a person, event or thing. For instance, one person might claim that the internet is a force for good, as it makes knowledge readily available, while someone else might claim that it's full of hatred and misinformation. Both statements are true: the internet has brought us access to a wide range of information, but it’s also swamped us with “fake news.”

Similarly, a local bookstore might describe Amazon as a disaster for its business, while a self-publishing author may think of it as a great platform to distribute her work. Indeed, the British bookstore chain Waterstones described Amazon as “a ruthless, money-making devil,” while in a survey of its members, the UK’s Society of Authors found many more respondents praising the online giant than attacking it. 

And that’s just the perspective from the world of books. Amazon also produces its own television shows and movies, runs Amazon Marketplace for budding entrepreneurs and owns the grocery store chain Whole Foods. Devil or savior, it’s many things to many different people. 

If we don’t acknowledge these competing truths, we can oversimplify the world. Consider US President Richard Nixon, who was a Republican. He’s almost universally maligned by those on the progressive side of politics. But he also created the Environmental Protection Agency and passed a raft of progressive legislation, such as the Endangered Species Act and the Ocean Dumping Act. Likewise, when thinking of George Bush’s legacy, we don’t often get further than the invasion of Iraq. However, over his two terms, Bush sent more financial aid to Africa than any other American president. 

The truth, then, is more often plural than singular. When you hear something asserted as the truth, pause and reflect on the wider picture before passing judgment. In the next blink, we’ll find out how our judgment can be shaped by the selective truths of others. 

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